Tips for managing common pregnancy digestion symptoms
Heartburn, constipation, gas, and bloating are all common pregnancy-related digestion symptoms. Fortunately, there are some actions you can take to support your digestive health and help alleviate, and possibly even prevent, these digestive symptoms.
Pregnancy-related heartburn — causes and tips for relief
Heartburn during pregnancy might be caused by changing hormones or, later in pregnancy, by your baby’s increasing size, which can put pressure on internal organs and cause stomach acid to irritate your esophagus. This most often feels like a dull burning sensation in the upper abdomen, the chest, or the throat. Large meals as well as fatty or spicy foods are common food-related causes of heartburn.
If you are experiencing heartburn symptoms while pregnant, there are some simple, sensible things you can do to help find relief:
- Wear loose-fitting clothes (if any of your pants or belts leave a ring around your stomach, they are too tight).
- Sit up while eating.
- Avoid eating late at night. Wait at least an hour after eating before going to bed.
- After eating, take a short walk.
- Avoid lying down for several hours after eating, and if you feel up to it, take a short walk.
- Chew gum or suck on a sour lemon drop (this will increase saliva flow, which neutralizes the acid in the stomach).
- Relax. Sit down, close your eyes, and take 10 long, deep breaths.
- Try sleeping with your head raised several inches above the rest of your body.
Lastly, always consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications, even antacids.
Pregnancy-related constipation — causes and tips for relief
Constipation is a common discomfort during pregnancy. This is due to your body’s natural process of slowing down the movement of food through your digestive tract to help make sure your body extracts as many nutrients as possible from the food you eat. In addition, your iron intake, which should increase during pregnancy, also might contribute to constipation. To alleviate symptoms of constipation during pregnancy:
- Drink plenty of water — 10 8-oz cups a day.
- Slowly increase the fiber in your diet. Aim for 28 g of daily fiber by eating foods such as:
- Beans, which offer 3 g to 6 g of fiber per serving (Garbanzo beans offer 6 g of fiber per serving.)
- Vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and carrots, which offer 2 g to 4 g per serving
- Fruits such as pears, figs, strawberries, apples, bananas, and oranges, which provide 2 g to 4 g per serving
- Whole grains from breads, brown rice, and pasta that provide 1 g to 3 g of fiber per serving
- Cereals and oatmeal that provide 3 g to 8 g of fiber per serving (100% bran gives you 8 grams of fiber per serving.)
- Exercise at least 30 minutes every day to stimulate your digestive tract and promote regular bowel movement.
Pregnancy-related gas and bloating — causes and tips for relief
Gas and bloating during pregnancy are also common symptoms, especially during the early months. In addition to the recommendations above for dealing with constipation, you can try the following to help relieve symptoms of gas and bloating:
- Eat slowly.
- Try to avoid foods that produce gas, such as cabbage or beans, and find other nutritious foods instead.
- Wait at least an hour after eating before you lie down. Give your food time to digest while you're still upright.
By following these tips you can help alleviate heartburn, constipation, and related symptoms such as gas and bloating during pregnancy. If any of these symptoms persist or become problematic, speak with your doctor.